Idi Amin and the Uganda Battalion

Ugandan Dictator Idi Amin joined the 4th (Uganda) Battalion KAR in 1946 as an assistant cook.

4th (Uganda) Bn KAR – identified by green cummerbund unique to this battalion – by unknown modern model maker

Amin was promoted to corporal in 1948 and continued to rise through the ranks to effendi (warrant officer) in 1959.

In 1961 Amin became one of the first black Africans to be made a commissioned officer, in preparation for the army of an independent Uganda in 1962 – despite having already established a reputation for being overzealous and cruel.

The best contemporary description of Amin during his time in the KAR comes from Iain Grahame’s memoire about his service as an officer in the Uganda Battalion: ‘Jambo Effendi: Seven Years with The King’s African Rifles’.

Gahame was writing in the early 1960s after independence but before Amin came to international notoriety and refers almost in passing to “Saidi, a six-foot-four giant from West Nile who had been the heavyweight boxing champion of Uganda for ten years, [and] had been one of the first Africans from 4 KAR to be given the Queen’s Commission in July 1961”.

The reference to being a heavyweight boxing champion confirms that Saidi is Idi Amin.

Grahame’s book also includes some excellent illustrations, including the picture to the right showing a sergeant of the 4th Battalion in ceremonial dress, wearing the green cummerbund that was unique to the uniform of the Uganda Battalion.

4th (Uganda) Bn KAR by modern model maker Asset Soldiers